Mystical Realism in Movies: Meeting the Numinous Through Mindful Viewing of Films
July 17–22, 2022
July 17, 2022
 - 
July 22, 2022
with Francis Lu
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The beginning of awe is wonder, and the beginning of wisdom is awe. —Abraham Heschel

Rudolph Otto described the numinous — Mysterium tremendum et fascinans — as the wholly other, experienced as a breakthrough of wonder, both fearful and fascinating. Joseph Campbell echoed Otto when he said that “The first function of a mythology is to reconcile waking consciousness to the mystérium tremendum et fascinans of this universe as it is.”

Filmmakers continually offer us new opportunities to experience the numinous through mystical realism. Quoting Esalen co-founder Michael Murphy, Jeffrey Kripal gives us a definition of how mystical realism appears in film: “[As] an imaginative elaboration of human experiences that have actually occurred to numerous individuals… something both fundamentally subjective (mystical), but also empirical and objective (realism).”

In this workshop, through mindful viewing of ten films exemplifying mystical realism, you will discover Campbell’s “awesome ultimate mystery which is beyond and within [an individual’s] self and all things.” Your cinematic repertoire will include films directed by Stanley Kubrick, Peter Weir, Terrence Malick, Robert Zemeckis, Werner Herzog, and David Attenborough among others, along with works inspired by the writings of Carl Sagan.

Developed over the course of 28 film seminars led at Esalen by Francis G. Lu, M.D. and Brother David Steindl-Rast, this seminar employs methods including mindful film viewing, contemplative reflection, and group interaction focused on the participant’s unique experience of carefully curated films. The viewing experience will be supported by 4K Blu-Ray video projection and a surround sound of seven loudspeakers.

There will be an extensive PDF syllabus for each film.

Francis Lu

Francis Lu

Francis G. Lu, MD, is the Luke & Grace Kim Professor in Cultural Psychiatry, Emeritus, at the University of California, Davis. He has led or co-led 36 film seminars at Esalen from 1987 to 2019, including 28 with Brother David Steindl-Rast.

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Workshop Schedule

Sunday
8:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Monday
9:30 am – 12:30 pm
4:15 pm – 6:15 pm
7:30 pm– 10:00 pm
Tuesday

9:30 am – 12:30 pm
4:15 pm – 6:15 pm
7:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Wednesday

9:30 am – 12:30 pm
4:15 pm – 6:15 pm
Thursday

9:30 am – 12:30 pm
4:15 pm – 6:15 pm
7:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Friday

9:30 am – 11:30 am

More activities can be found on our open class schedule.

See general schedule information including arrival, departure and meal times.

Accommodations & Tuition

Click Register Now to view availability of accommodations and all-inclusive, program-specific tuition. Please note that not all accommodation levels are available for every workshop and additional faculty fees may apply.

Accommodations & Tuition

For this workshop, you will register and pay for accommodations and tuition in two separate steps.

First, sign up and pay tuition directly to

Second, click Book Accommodations from this page and enter the password to complete your reservation to stay at Esalen.

Prices for accommodations include your lodging, meals, open classes, and use of the baths and other facilities. View partner program accommodations pricing.

COVID Update

In addition to proof of vaccination, all guests and faculty must provide proof of negative test results at time of check-in. Please read our current COVID safety guidelines for complete details prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Effective January 7, 2022 in response to the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant, all guests and faculty will provide proof of negative PCR, NAAT, or antigen test results at time of check-in. The test must be taken within 72 hours nd results must come from a laboratory or healthcare provider.Please read our updated COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Effective December 15 in accordance with new guidance from Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Health, all guests, students, staff, residents, and faculty are required to wear masks in all indoor public settings, irrespective of vaccine status, for the next four weeks (December 15, 2021 through January 15, 2022). Please read our updated COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Effective November 19, 2021, in accordance with new guidance from the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, all guests, students, staff, residents, and faculty are no longer required to wear masks indoors on campus. Please read our updated COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Starting November 5, 2021, due to substantial levels of COVID-19 transmission in Monterey County, a mask mandate established by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors will go into effect. Please read our COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

All guests will be required to provide proof of vaccination upon arrival starting September 3, 2021. Please read our COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Masks are no longer mandated indoors or outdoors, except during massage sessions. Guests are not required to provide testing or vaccination verification before arriving on campus. Please read our COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

All-inclusive Pricing